By Jim Wolf
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. space agency NASA said Thursday that it was leaving the door open to reviving a canceled plan for a major Southeast Asia climate study that may have run afoul of internal Thai politics.
No decision has been made "on whether NASA will be able to fly the mission next year or sometime in the future," said Steve Cole, a spokesman for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in Washington.
NASA scratched the study after the Thai government on Tuesday delayed action on a request to use a high-profile Thai air base as operations center for atmospheric observation during the peak Asian monsoon season.
The main opposition party had charged that the U.S. push to use U-Tapao, a launchpad for U.S. B-52 bombing missions during the Vietnam War, would infringe on Thai sovereignty among other things.
Cole said there were a range of options other than U-Tapao, both inside and outside Thailand, that could perhaps serve as headquarters for a future study.
"But I don't want to give the impression that NASA is actively considering specific locations," he said by email. "We are not yet at that stage."
NASA had sought to operate the mission from U-Tapao's airfield because of its central geographic location, access to infrastructure and cost considerations, Cole said.
Without a basing approval in hand on June 26, the time was too short to get the mission in the field to study the conditions in August and September, "when unique atmospheric processes occur that were the focus of the campaign," he said.
The opposition Democrats also accused the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra of tentatively agreeing to a deal with NASA in return for granting a U.S. visa to exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, her brother. The U.S. embassy in Bangkok has denied the charge.
NASA on its web site said the now-canceled plan was to have pulled together coordinated observations of pollution and weather systems from satellites, research aircraft and a range of sites on the ground and at sea.
(Reporting By Jim Wolf; editing by M.D. Golan)